Sean Miller took more of a positive approach after Arizona’s 103-101 loss to USC in four overtimes.
“I am very, very proud of our team,” Miller said. “We knew coming into USC that USC has a terrific team.
“What Andy Enfield has been able to do and his recruiting, the toughness of his kids, it is great for our conference. It make it tougher to coach in our conference, but we lost to a terrific basketball team. We knew that before the game started.”
Although he never wants to lose, Miller believes the results of this week could wind up helping Arizona improve.
“Up until now we have a team that is very coachable,” Miller said. “When we win, that’s just Coach Miller talking about defense again.
“It falls on deaf ears. But when you lose a couple and have some real evidence to back up how it feels when you don’t communicate, play with great effort, out of position, then I think in many ways this trip will have great meaning towards our future if we can change and be a team that plays defense from start to finish.”
Arizona’s defense was nothing short of horrible in the first half, but it was considerably better for the rest of the game.
“We have to get better on defense,” Miller said. “It is very difficult though because if you evaluated us in the first half you would say we’re really bad.
“If you evaluated us in the second half and four overtimes, you would say our defense is outstanding. I think they shot 31 percent through the second half and four overtime periods.”
The Wildcats’ offense is currently scoring at a high rate, but Miller’s focus still goes back to the defensive performance.
“Since I have been a coach at Arizona, we have never scored more easily,” he said. “We have enough offense to win.
“We have to improve our defense to achieve the things we are trying to achieve. We can still have a good season, but we’re going to pull up short because we’re too easy to score on, not for 40 minutes, but for segments of the game.”
Even though Arizona has a losing record through three games of Pac-12 play, Miller is keeping the start in perspective.
“The location of our games,” Miller said of his biggest takeaway. “When you play in conference play where nine teams can be in the NCAA Tournament and the first three are on the road all in the same week, it is a great challenge.
“Fans, the media, you can get caught up in 1-2. I’m too smart for that. It is an 18 game season. We haven’t played one home game yet.
“At the end of 18 games, there are nine on the road and nine at home, then I will have a better feel for where we are and how we stack up.”
With the game going so long, Miller learned a few things about his team on Saturday.
“You learn a lot about your players and kids,” Miller said. “I thought we had some guys that gave their heart and soul. How could you say anything other than you are proud of your guys?
“They played hard and gave everything that they had. You learn who can handle pressure and who can’t and some of the things we have to get better at. We’ll adjust.”